Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Friendly Spot - San Antonio, Texas

Ice houses are a south Texas tradition that dates back to the 1920's. Ice houses served their obvious function, selling ice, but also served as early convenience stores and gathering places. The 7-Eleven chain grew out of the ice house culture. A bit  from Wikipedia:

Texas Ice Houses

In Texas, former ice houses are a cultural tradition. Ice merchants diversified to sell groceries and cold beer, serving as early convenience stores and local gathering places. The widespread US 7-Eleven convenience store chain developed from ice houses operated by the Southland ice manufacturing company in Dallas and San Antonio in the 1930s, which were first known as Tote'm stores.Today many Texas ice houses have converted into open-air bars. In the region of Central Texas, Southeast Texas, especially the Houston area, and the Texas Hill Country in particular, the word "icehouse" has become a colloquialism for an establishment that derives the majority of its income from the sale of cold beer, especially such locally produced labels as Shiner Bock, Pearl, and Lone Star.

There may be ice house bars in other parts of the country but I've only seen this particular style in south Texas.

From a sign at The Friendly Spot:

After walking past this place countless times on previous visits, we finally stopped in at The Friendly Spot on our recent trip to San Antonio. The Friendly Spot is a neighborhood bar, a locals place. It's kid and pet friendly; really a place for the whole family. Oh yeah, and they sell beer too, lots of beer. Not only beer, food as well and other cold libations. One of the drink specials the day we were there was, what turned out to be, a really decent Rum Punch. 

The Friendly Spot has both a regular menu and a brunch/weekend menu. While we didn't eat here, the regular menu has what I think of as beer friendly foods and the brunch/weekend menu has the breakfast options covered. 

Today's ice houses are mostly open air bars. There may be a covered patio area or even an inside space but for the most part the main bar is open to or in the out-of-

Lot's of seating, a play area for the kids (beyond the big tree) water bowls for the doggies. A nice way to spend an afternoon.

There is another bar area as well. The back bar that's, well, in the back behind the main bar area. There's a covered seating area back there with ceiling fans and TV's.

I came away from our visit to The Friendly Spot thinking about how nice it would be if every neighborhood had a great spot like this.

Not too far from The Friendly Spot is another ice house in the same neighborhood. (How lucky are the people who live here?) It's B & D Ice BBQ and Draft. Similar set up but on a smaller scale. We stopped in for a beer and had to give their version of Frito Pie a try.

The Frito Pie features BBQ in the place of chili
B & D has a nice patio with plenty of umbrella covered seating and an inside bar as well. This place has been around for 50 years but closed in 2010. It just re-opened recently and is back with cold beers and decent BBQ.

These two great bars were both within walking distance to where we were staying. There are a ton of things to do and places to see in the King Williams and Southtown area of San Antonio. If you're planning a visit you can't go wrong spending at least some of your time there. The River Walk is great and I love it but it's nice to take a break from the hustle and bustle.

Happy dining!  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alamo Street Eat Bar - San Antonio, Texas

The Dining Companion and I spent some time in one of our favorite places this past weekend, San Antonio, Texas. Over the years we've visited several times and spent a lot of time on the main part of the River Walk. On this visit we did things a bit differently. Instead of going over familiar territory again we spent most of our time in the King Williams area.

We've visited this neighborhood before but not in a few years. One of the places we tried was the Alamo Street Eat Bar. Eat Bar is the site of a walk-up bar that is surrounded by food trucks. The trucks change but there were at least five both times that we visited. 

The bar has a good selection of beers and they feature several that are local to Texas.

We grabbed a couple of beers and took a look at the trucks. We decided on a burger from Chris Callum’s Attaboy Burgers and some Beignets from Where Y’At Third Coast Kitchen (I was looking forward to trying the po'boys at Where Y'at but they had moved on when we got back, maybe next time.)

A tasty burger and a cold beer - doesn't get better than that

Beignets - Powered sugar covered fried deliciousness
We also had some pizza. Sadly I don't have info on that truck. It was a wood fired margherita pizza with tapenade for extra flavor.

This pic does the pizza no justice...good crisp crust, flavorful toppings

There's a covered area in front of the bar and some tables around the site to kick back and enjoy the scene and the food.


On one of our visits a local bike gang showed up...no, not that kind of bike gang.
This kind...

Circa 1962
Alamo Street Eat Bar is a great place to pass an afternoon. People watching, cold beer, good food and pet friendly. If you ever find yourself thinking about a trip to San Antonio plan on making this one of your stops.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Traveling with Pets-On the road with the 4 Pound Wonder

I'm all packed and ready to go!
I've been thinking lately about the logistics of traveling with a pet. As some of you may know the Dining Companion and I adopted a little dog in the past year. The 4 Pound Wonder has been a wonderful addition to the family and so far she's been a pretty good traveler.

We've taken one multi-state road trip and a few weekends away and she's been great.

A place in the sun
While I've traveled with my pets in the past it's always been more out of need or necessity. The Dining Companion and I had, at one time, three dogs and two cats. During that time we had pet sitters come in and take care of the gang when we hit the road for vacation. Now with just the one little dog we've made the decision to take her with us on our travels.

It does take an extra effort to make this work but in the end we think it's worth it. I have a few tips on making things a little easier when on the road or at your destination.

There is a lot of good info online about traveling with pets. One of the better websites I've found is Bring Fido. There you'll find a list of hotels and restaurants in various cities that are pet friendly. There's also Trips With Pets.
They also have a list of hotels by chain that can accommodate you and your pet. One thing to keep in mind is that most hotels charge a pet fee. This can range anywhere from $75-$150 per stay. Not an insignificant expense but when compared to the cost of a pet sitter or boarding not out of reason in my opinion. Most of the bigger chains have a least one or two properties that are pet friendly. Don't forget to check B&B's and boutique hotels as well. Some of them also welcome pets.

Packing for your pet is no different than packing for yourself. I make a packing list of things that she will need on the road and once we arrive at our destination. This list usually includes the following:

  • Rabies certificate & tag and/or veterinary health certificate (make extra copies)
  • ID tags (best is to have your pet micro-chipped as well)
  • A crate or travel carrier (some place your pet feels safe and can sleep) 
  • Leash and collar or harness (we keep back-ups in the car at all times)
  • Food and water bowls
  • A favorite blanket and toy
  • Favorite food and treats
  • Bags for scooping and wee wee pads 
 Those are the basics. I pack a bag for her when I pack my bag and check things off the list as I go.

The next big test for us will be air travel within the US and at some point, international travel.

One of the biggest unknowns is how our pets will take to travel. Not all of them are cut out for it. A good indicator is how they behave in the car. Are they calm? Do they enjoy the experience? Chances are if your pet is jumpy and nervous in the car they may not be the best travelers. One way to help is to try and make sure all car trips don't end at the vet or the groomer. A trip to the park or another favorite place once in a while may take away some of the anxiety of being in the car.

Air travel will be different of course; it's an anxious time for all of us. It doesn't have to be trying. A comfortable travel carrier with a favorite blanket goes a long way to keep things calm. The important thing to remember is that each airline has it's own set of travel criteria for pets. Check with your airline to insure that you're in compliance with their policies. Most publish these criteria online at their websites. We are lucky in that our dog is small and can travel in the cabin with us. Pets over a certain size must travel in the planes hold. Again, check with your carrier to determine what is required.

A travel health certificate, proof of rabies vaccine and a microchip are usually the minimum things necessary. Some information on international travel can be found here (Pets and International Travel).

Traveling with your pets may not be for everyone but if you think your pet will enjoy being on the road with you give it a try. Maybe a quick trip to grandma's house or a weekend trip to a nearby town. You'll never know how it'll go until you do it. It may turn out to be a fun time for all of you.

I'll revisit this topic from time to time with updates on specific hotels, restaurants and destinations that we have good luck with.

Happy travels to you and your favorite furry companion!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Nature of Things

Most people who know me know that I am not the outdoorsy type. Not at all. I'm on record as saying that sleeping under the stars is fine as long as there are at least five of them. I may be heard uttering the phrase "I hate nature" if I feel that there's too much of it around me; you know, trees, grass, bugs, nature-y things.

I do, however, love nature through the lens of my camera, through the windows that surround me, from a distance. I try to capture the feel of the places that we visit when we travel and part of that is a places flora and fauna. I may hate it up close and in person but I can't deny its beauty.

 Sometimes the beauty of the landscape is in its starkness.


While I'll never love it, I will continue to capture the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Sometimes it's the unexpected that catches the eye

How could I deny The 4 Pound Wonder her enjoyment of all things outdoors

I'll never be a fan of the untamed outdoors but I have learned to appreciate it. As long as it doesn't get to close to me because no, just no.

Happy traveling!